The Black and the Light

The world will tell you you’re crazy,
because you listen for owls,
La Llorona and lowriders,

because you yell “Burn Him”
under fireworks, “Bravo” for Don Pasquale,
and hiss at the Melodrama.

They won’t know why you need
to dance by bandstands, or soak in cinema
under stars, margaritas on balconies,

why you crave faralitos, Las Posadas,
and piñon when it’s cold, when footsteps snap
through your turquoise fatigues.

They won’t understand, when all night long,
you lie between the still and the turning above,

just to take in the black and the light,
that quiet cold filled with the hunt.

They won’t get why you need
to feel stars press into your skin, and
the Milky Way flush through your veins,

why your lovers are Orion and Venus,
who soak their light on you
until they shine through.

They’ll think you’re crazy when you tell them
your wheel is slowing, and
that your soul is tethered to the rocks,

because you know you love the mountains
even more when they’re hidden,
and that a living heart will always be broken.

You’re the one who’s woken up
by raven wings and the sun’s rising song,
they who pull you in closer,

they who called you to a life you knew was here
when you had no reason to, no reason at all.

Her Last Third

A woman doesn’t come
to her last third lightly

but after knives and nights
have taken their bites

with guttural noises
and doubting voices

after she’s been to the waterfall
on fetal knees

where the light of death
makes clear the cost of caring

and her soul, scarred-strong,
imperfect and naked,
goes where it must.

To O’Keefe


Ravens over Pedernal tell stories

of a cactus woman who painted

skylines, pineapple buds, and

whatever else she pleased,


of a white place, a black place,

her faraway yin-yang, and

small beauties in a land

of sun-bleached bones


in a cloud over the mesa

see the dust of the devoted

dancing with her beloved

and the memory of flowers

Obsession / Tippy and Alfie

He, the most powerful one, was honored for his vision turned magic on the screen.  He was a shortish man, rotund, light brown eyes with lush, transparent lashes.  Invisible in his famous profile were those eyes, a canvas of adoration, blinking, hoping, like an infatuated child.  That was the scariest part of all, that naked need.  There was one girl after another, until there was her.

She, a model getting by, had a child to care for by herself.  Beautiful, dignified, gracious and grateful, she could hardly believe her good fortune at being chosen by him to convey his genius.  With increasing frequency, she felt a chill and found his eyes taking her in, observing her as a specimen.  He micro-managed her, and even had her handwriting analyzed as if to break her up into puzzle pieces for him to reassemble.  He was driven to mold her into his most perfect creation and destroy her with five days of horrific pecking, pecking, pecking, until she slumped into a heap on the floor.

Unexpectedly, she became everything he desired, with a career she had never dared hope for.  His public fame became his desperate, private shame, as she resisted his begging for her touch, defiant always.  It was her job to please him, professionally, so she clung to herself, unyielding, for her daughter and their future, as the line between her-self and his self-of-her blurred.  She held herself, ruthlessly, to her own self despite his repeated attempts to violate her demeanor.  She came back to do her job, time after time, until the humiliation and his unashamed demands for her body and being became unbearable.

When the final scene ended, the wig, chains and yellow purse dropped away, and the tip of a volcano of tears slid down her cheek.  She took refuge for months, resting and holding her daughter.  “He giveth, and he taketh away” is what she had to accept, as that vengeful one kept her from working again.

If only he were handsome, or even kind?  But that’s not who he was; his obsession wasn’t love.  His grotesqueness mirrored who he had become.  Safe with his wife, who was observing, ever present, and to the side.

my horizon home

my horizon home beckons,

when the ways of words are gone,

and the need to feel is deep,


soak your eyes in my mountains,

trace my jagged lines, my curves,

my purple layers permeate you,


we are still, yet we are moving,

we quiet ones who never sleep

Pantoum: Literary Key West

DSC00172 DSC00178

Here we gather, aging ants,

focused, clouds of chatter,

“Education Leads to Freedom”,

my heart becomes Cuban,


focused, clouds of chatter,

drawn into the body of San Carlos,

my heart became Cuban,

white marble steps, rising,


draw into the body of San Carlos,

Ernest looms above all,

white marble steps, rising,

Jack Kerouac, Elizabeth Bishop,


Ernest looms above all,

“Education Leads to Freedom”,

Jack Kerouac, Elizabeth Bishop,

here we gather, aging ants.


invisible sap,
she wears the bark
of the weeping willow,
bending to the wind

stubborn angel,
she guides me out of bed,
presses the piñon roast,
sets me on my day

sister of perseverance,
she lives in cocoons,
pawn shops, and
the wink of my grandmother’s eye

lone dandelion,
she eats what her stomach will allow,
what she can get away with,
what her mother fed her

blazing phoenix,
dog with a bone,
because of you,
I am happy to be alive

Sestina: Right Now is a Season


white stars on a horizon of blue

snow announces it’s presence

in the yawning shadow of a mountain

my mind chews on lingering seeds

left over from a different season

church bells guide me, look for the light


as I lift my head, there is no light

the sun a blip on a sky void of blue

in this moment of many seasons

gray is the only one present

chaos of creation encompassed in seeds

dirt made manifest, murky mountains


I hope one day to climb those mountains

arms wide open, try to catch that light

let my spirit go to seed

the sky be my vast ocean blue

bathe in light’s holy presence

dare to reveal my season


right now is a season

for terra-cotta cloaked mountains

and dusty beasts revealing the presence

of air given form, dancing with light

for a moment masking the blue

jarring loose dreaming seeds




catching in nooks waiting for seeds

lucky enough to have their season

horizon’s hues, the purple and blue

of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

in the shade of the fading light

I can not deny their presence


right now is the undeniable presence

of stories hiding in hearty seeds

nurture dreams unready for light

until it is their season

when through the clouds a patch of blue

emerges over the mountains


turquoise vein’s shocking blue presence

creeps through mountainsides full of seed,

this season of solar-flare-northern-lights

For A Friend

Our first good times,
we shared my brown suede jacket,
you gave me a bullseye cross.

As miles between us multiplied,
seasons became years,
children owned our savage hearts.

Then, my home became your refuge,
a woodland to your deer,
with little white she-bear.

Now all your beautiful songs
are a solo for one,
and as I look for keys
in this post-everything life,

I see you see me in the rear view.
I can no longer hide in memory.
I must acquiesce.

She Told Me To Call Her Amy

I called her Mrs. Pirillo,
but she told me to call her Amy –
such a young name, for such an elder,
the mother of my 40-year friend –

but not for a builder, a teacher,
a mother, a leader,
an ex-betrothed, who wouldn’t
be swayed from waiting

for the right songbird
to play piano for their children
and dance her eternally
under St. Michael’s full moon.

From the Santa Fe New Mexican: I Loved a Duck


Reader View: True confession — I loved a duck

Posted: Saturday, July 6, 2013 11:00 pm

By Susan Aylward

In the community I live and love, there is currently a dispute. One side is hen owners (some for decades) and their supporters.

On the other side are those who contend that having hens doesn’t meet the strict interpretation of the rules and threatened our Eldorado Community Improvement Association board with legal action if the board didn’t follow their strict interpretation of the rules. Now, ECIA is suing some homeowners.

The question ECIA has put before the court is, can hens be “recognized pets?”

I don’t have hens. I’ve never known any hens. I’ve wondered and asked around, can a hen be a pet? Many people’s reaction is, you’ve got to be kidding me. I was unsure, until one day I connected this issue with a powerful childhood memory.

His name was Chippy. I got him for Easter one year, when we lived in the Sunnyside Apartments. Previously, the only other pet I had was a goldfish who hopped out of his bowl regularly from a height of 6 feet. In the morning, Mom would scoop him off the rug and plop him back in the bowl. I loved kittens dearly, but because of my mother’s fearful memories of waking up in her stern grandmother’s bed filled with cats, that was never an option.

Easter was always wonderful because of my mother, who made huge baskets filled with chocolate eggs, Peeps, jellybeans and a tall, solid chocolate bunny in the center. The goodies were nestled in green plastic grass, and the whole basket was wrapped tightly with colorful cellophane, wrapped on top into a bow. It was magical to gently pry it open and pop in a solid chocolate egg at 6 a.m.

When I was 7 or 8, Easter morning was even more memorable. Before I could scout for my basket, I heard a tiny “cheep, cheep.” As I walked into the kitchen, I saw a large brown box near the patio door. Inside was the tiniest, fluffiest yellow duckling, the most adorable thing I had ever seen. Mom, in her robe and slippers, gingerly scooped up the fuzzy tot and placed him into my arms. Newspaper was spread on the floor so he could putt-putt about, waddling from lap to lap, petting hands covering his little frame.

When his feathers turned white and his size quadrupled, we took him to “Old MacDonald’s Farm” to live. I know that when you’re told your pet is going to live at a farm, that usually isn’t what’s happening. But in this case, it was an actual place we would visit.

Which lead me to is this confession: I have loved a duck. Because of that, I believe it is possible to love a hen.

Susan Aylward is a local writer who blogs prose, poetry and pictures

Posted in  on Saturday, July 6, 2013 11:00 pm.

Villanelle: Descansos Pummeled, Winds of Early Spring


Descansos pummeled, winds of early spring,

bait and stir ghosts never old,

a bird flies alone, what song does it sing?


Here spirit flew as if in a dream,

they’ll return until their stories are told,

descansos pummeled, winds of early spring


Mothers weep for those taken wing,

oh seeking one, the nest will grow cold,

descansos pummeled, winds of early spring


Grandmothers cross hearts, beads on a string,

welcoming buds in purple and gold,

a bird flies alone, what song does it sing?


Kindness, unexpected, makes my heart sting,

trumpets blow, life never grows old,

a bird flies alone, what song does it sing?